Her name means “Hope,” but it should mean luck. Born with an un-treatable birth defect, the doctors thought she would die. The defect miraculously disappeared days after she was born.
As an infant, a ceiling collapsed around her bassinet. She emerged unharmed. And as a toddler, she fell off a 15 foot bridge into a canal. She emerged crying from the canal with only a few bruises.
Her name? Nadia.
In Kindergarten, Nadia loved to bound across the playground. Gymnastics coach Bela Karoly saw her. He invited her to join his experimental gymnastics school. She fell in love with the bars, beams, and mats. They provided endless playtime. Playing took her to competing.
After 8 years of playing on the uneven bars, Nadia Comaneci competed in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. She became the first gymnast to ever receive a perfect score of 10.
Nadia’s escape from death may be due to luck, but her success in gymnastics wasn’t. She made Olympic History because of hard work and a great sense of balance. Balance is a little-overlooked element in many disciplines – especially when designing marketing messages.
Balance is achieved through “white space.”
White space is the unused space on a page. The term comes from the printing industry when text was printed on white paper. White space really means negative space, or the blank parts of the page. The color of the background can be yellow, or blue, or white and it’s still called white space.
As you read this article, notice the space between sections and paragraphs. Those blank spaces are important. White space seems like it’s wasted, but it’s not.
White space is important for three reasons:
- It increases comprehension of your message.
- It’s visually stimulating.
- It demonstrates your authority.
Let’s start with how white space increases understanding:
When you’re reading, your eyes go faster than your brain. White space provides short pauses so your brain can catch up. These pauses help you understand the meaning of the words. This is needed because words are based on language.
Language is a higher thought process than seeing, and takes a bit more time.
White space also gives your brain clues. Clue about where ideas start and stop. White space balances the words and helps you organize the information.
A picture is worth 1,000 words because a picture is a complete idea. It’s not based on language. Even with pictures, however, there is a need for a balance. A balance between something and nothing.
How can nothing be visually stimulating?
Your brain wants to learn. Learning excites it. Your brain gets frustrated if things come at it too fast. It feels dumb and shuts down. White space gives your brain space to breathe. It helps it figure out the message and makes it feel smart. Feeling smart is fireworks for your brain. It seems strange – and counterintuitive – but white space is visually stimulating.
Space filled with nothing excites your imagination. It lets your brain be free to imagine something out of the nothing.
When you make your readers feel smart, they see you as an authority.
As an authority, you want to tell your reader everything you know. But if you shove too much information at them, they can’t understand it. They feel dumb. Their thinking shuts down. They tune you out. Because they don’t understand your message, your reader doesn’t see you as knowledgeable. You want to simplify.
Simple ideas are easy to understand. Simple ideas are conveyed with plain words and lots of white space. When your reader grasps your message, they know you understand what you’re talking about. They see you as knowledgeable.
But white space seems like such a waste!
When book printing first began, white space was a waste of space. People didn’t have nearly as many distractions. Now so many things clamor for attention, it’s overwhelming.
Even just 10 years ago if you read a sentence you didn’t understand, you would go back and read it again. Today if that happens, your reader will click to go somewhere else.
White space helps your readers by:
- Slowing down their reading. These pauses help their minds catch up with their eyes.
- Giving their brains space to breathe and imagine.
- Increasing comprehension of your message, which makes you seem smart.
Using white space is a design best practice. Even websites are moving to this best practice. For example, consider how wordpress websites recently changed from being HTML-based editing to blocked-based editing with the Gutenberg update. Block-based editing adds white space for better design and easier reading.
Balance is a little-overlooked element in many disciplines. Whether it’s gymnastics or the design of marketing messages – the correct balance makes you stand out.